My name is Samuel Blanco, I was an exchange student at Finland wishing for acquisition of new knowledge and adventures. I was not disappointed.
One thing that made my whole trip a great learning experience and gave me more stories and great moments to add into the exchange experience was the Demola Project, I arrived to Tampere hopping for the best, decided to study new fields, with eager to see how the was educational system of the so acclaimed country of Finland, if it was truly as amazing as people i know tend to say. Once again i was not disappointed.
I found Demola during the first day at school, a project between an external client and students, end the university ends up giving you credits for it, I applied to 3 projects, the process was really satisfying, the have a really robust and well done software system for the appliance, and it is also really intuitive, i had no trouble making my choices from the portfolio of projects they had, and they are well defined what kind of attributes they seek in each one of the possible members for the project, in my case i applied to the technology stack, mainly programming.
At the end of the day i was accepted in, “Anna, the kindest game ever”.
How did it go?
The team i was put into was great, we were 2 programmers, we had a girl majoring in management, another girl and a guy majoring in marketing and one that had experience with crowd-sourcing, so the project team was well balanced, one designer would have fit just perfectly, since we wanted to do a gamified experience it could have been of great help, but still all were really capable of working and really enthusiastic.
Work was not balanced –
Even that we all were really capable students, the matter on the project was a little bit inclined into the Tech Spec, so me and Mika, the other guy with programming experience, had way more work to do than the other team members, not because the others were not doing their job, but simply the project requires more of the technical part, than the other part, one more team member in the tech Stack would have been perfect.
We are students –
A factor that had a lot of consequences on the final result was the fact that we are students, we have school task, part jobs and some of us many other activities. Of course this is part of the experience, and Demola is designed around the fact that they want to connect companies, and entrepreneurs with the talent and new ideas of young students, but the final result cannot be compared to that of a professional company, but still i think the work done was pretty good as a proof of concept, it also works as an idea validator, it wasn’t a scalable prototype, but we proved a point, and realized what should be changed, what should be kept, and what should be removed.
Some Problems –
Something really bad happened along the way, my computer broke, the motherboard burned, and for a week i had no computer to work on, not only that but sending it back to america for the warranty was not an option, luckily one friend had a laptop that i could do a little work on, and all my code was on Github( backup ) so i could easily get back to where i left, also Demola was amazingly kind by lending me a laptop, to keep working on, they had really good equipment and it was actually the best solution.
The Process –
The process we followed has good design, with really good checkpoints around the way, meetings with the supervisor, the client and a professor, to check on how the project is going to continue along the semester, and check the factibility of completion or define well structured deliverables, one think that should be noted is that at the beginning we decided the process that we would follow as a team, client and project supervisor, this was excellent, so this way we all could be in the same page and decide together what can work for everyone. As my personal point of view, i think that it would be better if demola had already defined a well structure communication and planning framework that can be modified o tweaked to the necessities of each team, with a set of 1 or 2 recommended tools for us to use, the main tool that i found that worked the most was email, and slack, but other tools some time fell to the backbox. Surely it would get rid of a lot of misconceptions that might come along, or missing parts that could exist in the team’s process.
The Product –
Beginning the project we had a lot of freedom on what we were going to implement, our client simply gave us an idea, a gamified experience on crowdsourcing for charity, the idea is amazing, and really viable, but the solution can come in many factors, Web Application (Our approach), Mobile App, API that other apps can integrate to, are som that come to my mind, and the client might have some in advance, our approach was not the correct one, but at least we proved that it wasn’t, and i think that our client was not satisfied because we didn’t accomplish what he wanted. That could have been pre-thought or he could have that in mind if on first instance we had established that we were going to make a Proof Of Concept for a Web Application. And that the main objective was to check the viability of the demo, and if it had potential, and had established that the final result was not a prototype to build upon. That way I am sure that the Client would be more happy with the results.
End Result –
The end result was not bad, but still it wasn’t complete, we had great ideas on mind, making a web application for the API to work upon, so we could integrate it latter to other platforms and scale it more easily, but one thing that kept on happening were, ideas, yeah it might sound a bit cheesy but ideas kept on coming and coming one after the other, so we did not have a concrete path to follow, we were designing for something, and then another idea that sounded better or was really “cool” to have in the app appeared, and the path changed direction, we had to rethink everything we had to include the new idea, so something that originally was a website, became into a API, and then into a videogame, and so and so, the idea started to become more and more complex for everyone to follow the same page, and be on sync on what was happening, at the end it was not possible.
I think that establishing a simple but concrete idea is better, there is a zen word for this “KISS”, Keep It Simple Stupid, it might sound aggressive or offensive but is the truth, keep a simple idea, finish it, then build upon it, if we had established what we were going to develop in the first time, in a simple manner, that could be understood what the checkpoints where going to be and what the deliverables were going contain, we could have ended with a result that was both, solid and valuable for the client.
In summary Demola was amazing, don’t get me wrong here, it has its perks, they have room to improve, mainly on defining well structured process for the students, and a little bit better management would come in handy, but still what they are doing is just great, they are incorporating the students with the passion and the talent to innovate into solving some real world problems, they can accomplish amazing things when they have a well defined Goal, and the tool to support them. If you asked me if i would do it again?, i’d say definitely, no doubt about it. Tanks for reading